Visiting Doha in Qatar to see first hand how a country are working to address their alarmingly high rates of obesity and diabetes was an amazing experience. The launch of a Healthy Food Initiative at the 7th edition of the Qatar International Food Festival (#QIFF2016) was one example of vital
education to engage the Qatari population to make changes.
An escalating global epidemic of overweight and obesity, coined as globesity is taking over many parts of the world and Qatar is one such location. It has recently been ranked as 5th place globally for weight and diabetes rates. The statistics of 22.1% of Qatari girls and 33.5% of Qatari boys under the age of twenty being overweight or obese is a disturbing trend.
The Healthy Food Initiative has been launched by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who is Chairperson of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute and Reach Out to Asia. With support from Alain Ducasse, one of the worlds most decorated chefs, the initiative to raise awareness about healthy lifestyles and eating habits has been launched.
The Healthy Food Show on 25th March provided an opportunity to convey healthy messages. Panelists included doctor and nutritionist Valerie Espinasse and Alain Ducasse. Dr Espinasse explained how to improve health and avoid chronic disease by eating foods that nourish the body. Suggestions focused on low glycaemic foods, which help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and a clear recommendation to swap fizzy drinks for mineral water.
Alain Ducasse highlighted the healthy food concept of his first Middle-Eastern restaurant, IDAM , which is located in the heart of the iconic Museum of Islamic Art. Alain talked about provenance of food and the need to encourage children to explore new tastes in fun and engaging ways. Explaining his involvement he stated, “Today, I am happy to support Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s initiative. I am convinced taste development is a significant lever for a good diet. Developing a wide and varied taste palette is the key to diversifying a healthy diet while enjoying it.”
Alongside the panellist presentations, children’s workshops provided some fun hands-on learning. Workshops for groups of children included planting herb seeds to take home and tasting smoothies to identify fruit and vegetable ingredients. All children were also given a chef’s hat and certificate and there was a lot of laughter as these fun activities conveyed positive messages about healthy eating.
Commenting on her initiative, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar Museums said, “The international food festival provides the ideal opportunity to highlight the relationship between food, healthy eating, exercise and well-being. We’re delighted that leading figures such as Valerie Espinasse and Alain Ducasse have chosen to back our initiative. With their involvement and support, we hope to engage as many people as possible in taking positive steps towards eating well and leading a healthy lifestlyle.”
Hopefully the impact of this initiative alongside many other campaigns in Qatar including sport/activity promotion will help to move a population towards better balanced diets and health and further from obesity and disease.